Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 13, 2016 Guest: Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Not only do I want you to run for president, Chris, but I want to live in the country that would elect you.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That country is called my household navy. Possibly.
MADDOW: On a good day, with everybody in a good mood.
You and I live in that same country, just in my world, it`s my house. Yes. Thank you, sir.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. On August 8th, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned. He had been elected in 1968. He`d been re-elected in 1972, but in 1974 because of Watergate and everything that came out after Watergate, it was caput.
We all have in mind that image of Nixon getting on the helicopter and flying away from the White House, right, the big wave as Gerald Ford became president, right?
But one of the other things he did on his last day which we do not see nearly as much tape of was the remarkable farewell speech that Nixon gave that day. It was not directed to the American people directly, although they did let press cameras in to see it. No, it was the remarkable speech he gave inside the White House to the White House staff. And he was absolutely covered in sweat as he gave this speech. He cried pretty much throughout the speech or at least on and off throughout the speech he cried.
And this was obviously, a terrible moment for Richard Nixon. This was a terrible occasion for him. But even knowing that, this speech that he gave to the White House staff as he was leaving that day, as he was quitting the presidency, oh my God was that speech dark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Look around here and I see so many in this staff that you know, I should have been by your offices and shaken hands and I`d love to have talked to you and found out how to run the world. Everybody wants to tell the president what to do. And, boy, he needs to be told many times.
Nobody will ever write a book probably about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother. My mother was a saint. And I think of her two boys dying of tuberculosis, nursing four others in order that she could take care of my older brother for three years in Arizona and seeing each of them die and when they died, it was like one of her own.
Yes, she will have no books written about her. But she was a saint. Always remember others may hate you. Those who hate you don`t win unless you hate them. Then you destroy yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I think there`s a reason we don`t see a lot of that tape. That speech doesn`t circulate. It`s not top of mind.
And even knowing what we know about why Nixon had to leave office, right, even understanding how this fits into American history and the history of American political accountability, there`s still something a little distressing just as an American citizen about seeing an American president in such extremis, right, in so dark place and sobbing his way through that address.
At one point in the speech, he made some references to Teddy Roosevelt. He had referenced Teddy Roosevelt in his resignation speech the night before. He referenced Teddy Roosevelt again, read a long quote from Teddy Roosevelt in that speech to the White House staff the next day.
And it turns out there was a back story as why he kept quoting Teddy Roosevelt, both in the formal speech to the country and in the strange dark farewell address to the White House staff. And the backstory is that he had asked one of his relatives the night before his resignation to go find some works by Teddy Roosevelt in the White House library.
And it`s one of the striking things about the way he said good-bye, right. The staging when he was at the White House and saying good-bye at the White House the next day. He had his whole family with him, throughout on his last day as he was quitting. You could see him there on the platform when he was talking to the White House staff, giving a tearful dark speech.
But he wasn`t there alone. He was there with his wife, Pat Nixon. He was there with his daughter Trisha Nixon in the yellow dress.
But it`s interesting, the relative who he had asked to go get him the Teddy Roosevelt book, that`s that man that we spot-shadowed there. That was Richard Nixon`s son-in-law. In 1971, so three years before the resignation, during Richard Nixon`s first term in office, the Nixon family held this remarkable lavish outdoor wedding at the White House in the Rose Garden. The Nixon`s daughter Trisha at the wedding, at the Rose Garden, married a 24-year-old handsome law student that`s sort of an ideological background given the fact he was marrying into the Nixon family. Compared to them, he is sort of a more liberal bent, at least he had worked with Ralph Nader. He was considered to be one of the original Naders raiders.
But in this extraordinary extravagant over-the-top White House wedding that was covered like a royal wedding, in fact, it looked like a royal wedding, then 24-year-old Edward Cox, he married Trisha Nixon at the White House, he married into the Nixon family while Richard Nixon was president. And Edward Cox was soon, you know, part of every day family matters at the White House, up to and including his involvement at the very end, helping his father-in-law craft his good-bye, craft his resignation, standing there on stage as President Nixon sweated and wept his way through his White House good-byes.
That young man who married Trisha Nixon at the White House, who married into the family at this extraordinary time, again, his name is Edward Cox. And today, Edward Cox is alive and well. He`s a Republican in good standing.
In New York state, he`s not just a Republican in good standing, he`s actually today the chairman of the New York state Republican Party. And as someone with that sort of troubled Republican royalty pedigree, as somebody who is no stranger to gala high-profiled events, tomorrow night in New York City, Edward Cox, Dick Nixon`s son-in-law, is going to be hosting an exclusive sold-out huge black tie gala event. Tickets to attend are reportedly a minimum of $1,000 each. The event is going to happen in one of these huge midtown hotel ballrooms at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street in the heart of New York City.
At this event tomorrow night, they`re going to raise a gazillion dollars for the Republican Party of New York state. Mr. Cox as chairman at this event, he will be hosting all three Republican presidential candidates in person, at this event tomorrow night.
And we can now report that Edward Cox will also have several hundred, if not several thousand severely unwanted guests at the same New York City black tie gala tomorrow night.
Over the past year, hundreds of U.S. cities have had protests and noisy marches and loud rallies by low wage employees fighting to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour in this country. This campaign has been creative and aggressive and did I mention, it has been loud?
And over this past year, it has also had some remarkable success. I mean, 15 bucks an hour at the start of the campaign seemed pie in the sky. But just in the last few days, New York state and California governors have signed laws that will phase in a $15 minimum wage over time.
Certain cities around the country have also signed on to a 15 buck an hour minimum wage. Some big companies have signed on to not paying their employees less than $15 an hour. Some whole industries and some parts of the country have signed on to $15 an hour.
But even places and industries that are heading to a $15 minimum, in most places, we are not there yet. And the movement, the sort of incredible, scrappy, loud movement for 15 bucks an hour as the minimum wage, you know, they`ve come this far, thanks to this year-plus of organizing, this noisy direct action that they have organized, it has worked for them thus far and they are sticking with it and they are continuing to press.
And tomorrow, they are kicking it up a notch with planned protest in 300 more American cities, including one big march that will be the largest of the all the 300 cities that are going to have these demonstrations tomorrow. The biggest one will be the one at the start of the giant McDonald`s in Times Square in New York City and they`re going to march from the McDonald`s right down 42nd Street to go see Edward Cox. They`re going to go from McDonald`s to Edward F. Cox`s thousand dollar a plate Republican gala, raising money for the New York state Republican Party and featuring in person all three Republican presidential candidates.
Republican presidential candidates, New York state Republican Party, Richard Nixon`s son-in-law, meet $15 minimum wage protesters at your gala. That should be something fairly amazing to see tomorrow.
And on the Republican side of the presidential race, we are at an interesting moment right now. Donald Trump, the New York City billionaire, is the front runner for the Republican nomination. He continues to pull at over 50 percent in one poll, 60 percent in another poll in the New York state primary. That primary is due to happen in six days.
One of the things we`re going to talk about later in the show is this prospect that has been raised that Donald Trump`s lead is so huge in New York right now that he might conceivably be able to basically sweep all the delegates in New York or at least most of them.
Also, given how strongly he`s favored in the whole round of states that`s due to vote right after New York, if he sweeps New York or gets close to it, that could be absolutely devastating to Donald Trump`s competition for the Republican nomination. We`ll talk about that later on.
That said, Mr. Trump`s campaign is actually one that looks like it`s in a little bit of organizational disarray right now. Mr. Trump has just made a major change to his campaign. He`s just hired this man to be the new national political director of his presidential campaign.
Now, you may not recognize him by site even with that notable facial hair decision. But his name is Rick Wiley. And even if you don`t recognize him by sight, you will recognize his resume. He most recently was the campaign manager for the failed and deeply indebted presidential run of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Before that, Rick Wiley was the deputy national political director for the failed and very deeply indebted presidential run of Rudolph Giuliani.
Before that, he ran the George W. Bush re-election efforts in the state of Wisconsin in 2004. You might remember George W. Bush lost the state of Wisconsin in his re-election effort in 2004.
So, lose Wisconsin, lose Rudy Giuliani spectacularly, lose Scott Walker spectacularly and set huge amounts of money on fire in both of those failed races. You know what? In this business, what that kind of track record gets you is promoted. There is no way to fail up as well as being in national political campaigns. Boy, do they fail up.
I mean, when Scott Walkers campaign blew up so fast and so expensively this past year, it actually felt for a second his campaign manager might be immune from this feature of the political operative world, right, where people who do badly the last time around get bigger jobs the next time around.
It felt like maybe the Scott Walker campaign might be exempt from that. Do you remember what Scott Walker`s campaign manager said when Walker quit? I mean, the quote he gave the press as soon as Scott Walker quit about Scott Walker and what happened there, that should have made it so that he never got another job at this level of presidential politics, at least if it was a normal industry, that would be true.
But apparently, this was fine. Do you remember this? Right when Scott Walker quit, the day after Scott Walker quit, Rick Wiley, his campaign manager, told Politico.com on the record this about Scott Walker. Quote, "We built the machine we need in order to get a governor in phenomenal state to take a stage in a presidential debate. I think sometimes it`s lost on people the largeness of the job. I think people just look at it and say, wow, yeah, you know, it`s like, he`s a governor and he was in a recall and blah, blah, blah, he`s ready. It`s not like that. It`s really, really difficult. I`m just saying, you know, it`s like an f-ing, rhymes with ditch, man, it really is."
After your guy quits, you don`t immediately one to the press and say on the record, my God, it was so hard to make him sound like he knew what he was talking about. Do you know how hard it was to make this guy sound like he was ready to be on a national stage? Oh, my God, people think it was easy, it was terrible. It was the hardest thing in the world. It was -- you don`t do that while the guy`s body is still warm.
But that`s what Rick Wiley did when the Scott Walker campaign that he ran blew up like a closed drier with a cinder block in it. But now, Rick Wiley has been promoted, has been picked up for the Republican front runner for the Donald Trump campaign.
The Republican side of the presidential campaign is still dramatically influx in an interesting way.
On the Democratic side of the presidential race, we had stunning visuals today, that showed how on the Democratic side of the race, it`s basically, the exact opposite right now of the party crashing we are expecting tomorrow night from the minimum wage protesters at the New York state black tie thousand dollar a plate Republican gala. It is opposite land to that in the Democratic Party right now.
And that`s next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In behalf of every worker in America, who`s facing the same kind of pressure, thank you for what you`re doing. We`re going to win this thing! Thank you.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think workers and employees need more support (INAUDIBLE) to get raises (INAUDIBLE). Here I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today on the Democratic side of the presidential race, both candidates went out of their way to show up, to talk to and express support for workers out on the picket line. More than 36,000 people who work at Verizon went out on strike today. Verizon workers are striking from all the way up in New England to Virginia.
It`s actually the largest strike of any kind in the country in the last five years. And it`s happening in the middle of the presidential race. So both Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont, and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, they both got out on the street with workers on the picket line today. They both also put out statements of support, basically trying to push Verizon to give their employees a better deal.
The Democratic Party has gone through a lot of soul-searching in recent years about whether or not it`s capable of getting back to its roots as the party that is supposed to stand up for people who worked for a living. There`s a lot of consternation on the populist left in the Democratic Party that the Democrats have shifted to become too friendly to big business. While the people who work for big businesses increasingly get screwed in this economy and feel like nobody in politics is there to help them. Nobody in politics, neither party is there to serve the interest of average working people.
Well, today is one of those days that the argument in Democratic politics became concrete. It`s one of those days when frankly, if you are on the populist left of the Democratic Party, you probably thought it was really nice today that there is a competitive Democratic presidential primary this year, because the Democratic candidates in this primary spent today trying to outdo each other supporting working people, with trying to prove that they mean it. The Sanders campaign and the Clinton campaign both today touted dueling endorsements from big local unions in New York, even as both campaigns sent their candidates out to join workers on the picket line.
This is also a week in Washington where a whole bunch of liberal groups have come together for a week of big splashy demonstrations and mass arrests at the U.S. capital. They`re calling it democracy spring. They started the first week of April when a core group of people started to march from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. But it`s culminating this week with daily rallies at the capital.
They rally at Union Station, which is the big train station in Washington. Every day they hold big rallies that are permanent and march to the U.S. capitol and then at the U.S. capitol, on the steps of the capitol building, a lot of people have been arrested every day this week.
It`s peaceful but tons of arrests. On Monday, it was more than 400 people that got arrested. Yesterday, the capitol police told us it was 85 arrests. Today, it was another 90. We`re expecting more mass arrest tomorrow and the next day.
These are liberal groups protesting in a dignified, orderly, actually sort of logistically very well organized way. They`re basically dramatizing the frustration of the left with how broken our political system is.
Protesters, this democracy spring effort, they are not endorsing a presidential candidate but it is telling and it tells you something about where we are in Democratic politics right now, that at least one of the two Democratic presidential candidates is endorsing them. Senator Bernie Sanders expressed his support and solidarity with that democracy spring movement that`s had so many arrested this week already in D.C.
So, this is kind of an exciting time in electoral politics and in partisan politics. I mean, in the Republican presidential race, the excitement is real close to the surface, right? It`s very obvious. Nobody knows what`s going to happen with their frontrunner. Donald Trump in these forthcoming states is expected to do really, really well at the exact time that the Republican Party seems to be rejecting him like a failed organ transplant.
I mean, on the Republican side, the drama is right in your face. On the Democratic side, it`s deeper. On the Democratic side, it`s an exciting part of that race right now, particularly for people who do or don`t identify with the Democratic Party but who see themselves on the left side of American politics, because we`re at this very visible moment in the race where the Democratic candidates are competing hand over fist to be seen as being on the side of working people -- and particularly people who do not get paid very much money and people who are standing up to their big business employers to try to improve their lot in life, to try to improve their pay and their benefits and their working conditions.
If you are an economic populist, if you want to see the Democratic Party, go back to standing up for people who work for a living -- this is the kind of competition among Democrats that you want to see, right. This is how candidates ought to compete to try to become a standard bearer of the Democratic Party nationwide.
That fight also produced an interesting new development on the Sanders side of the presidential race today. Since the beginning of the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton has raised millions of dollars not just for her own campaign but also for the Democratic Party and for state Democratic parties.
She`s been trying to not build up only her own effort in terms of her fundraising, but she`s been trying to build up the Democratic Party`s strength overall. She`s raised money again. National Democratic Party and more than 30 Democratic state parties. That`s Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders, on the other side, he has raised a gazillion dollars for his own campaign. He`s raised over 100 million in 2016 alone for his own campaign. But before today, he had not raised money for the Democratic Party, let alone Democratic state parties, let alone for any other Democratic candidate other than himself, at least not through this primary process.
Today, that changed. Today, Sanders picked three House candidates who are running in New York and Nevada and Washington. Today, Bernie Sanders told his supporters that they should split their donations, half and half, between him and those down-ticket candidates, those handpicked Sanders- supporting House candidates.
What he is doing here is totally different from what Hillary Clinton is doing, in terms of trying to raise money for the Democratic Party, but it is spreading the wealth, spreading a little bit of the wealth, finally, on the Sanders side of the Democratic presidential primary, and that is new today.
These are exciting days in politics. I mean, today was exciting in politics. Tomorrow, particularly tomorrow night looks like it will be more exciting in politics. This is a very good time to be in this business and we`ve got some great guests here tonight to talk about it.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I want to show you something that`s been happening tonight in New York City and continues to be happening right now. Take a look at this. This is Bernie Sanders rally in New York City tonight. The scrum there you see is around candidate Sanders himself.
Now, on last night`s show, you might remember we gave you a heads up about this particular event last night, because this is Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan and we haven`t gotten a confirmed number from the police yet from any independent authority in terms of how many people turned out at this event.
But we had an inkling it`s going to be big. They had 17,000 RSVPs for this event as of last night. Now, tonight, that the event is just wrapping up, the Sanders campaign said the people that turned up tonight, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, they estimate it was 27,000 people.
Twenty-seven thousand -- if they are right about that, that would make this event tonight for the Sanders campaign bigger than the landmark rally that Barack Obama held at that same park in the 2008 campaign when he turned out 24,000 people and everybody thought it was the most unimaginably large thing that could possibly happen in electoral politics.
I think the Sanders campaign knew the visuals would be amazing. As you can tell, they were right. There`s a huge turnout tonight in New York City for Bernie Sanders.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: These are all of the people who hold U.S. Senate seats right now who are members of the Democratic Party, or who caucused with the Democratic Party. And before today, of all of these members of the -- actually, we only showed four people there, but that was weird.
Anyway, there are 45 of them. Before today, these were the five U.S. senators in that category who has not yet made an endorsement in the Democratic presidential primary. Before today, the only Democratic senators who had not made an endorsement between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were these five.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, hers, of course, is probably the most hotly anticipated endorsement of all in the Democratic race. She`s the only Democratic female senator who has not endorsed.
Also, Senator Bob Menendez. I should say Senator Menendez, his is not a hotly anticipated endorsement this year because frankly, no one wants your endorsement when you`re under indictment. Sorry, Senator, it`s true.
There`s also John Tester of Montana. I`m not sure why he`s not endorsed yet. There`s also Senator Angus King. That said, Senator King is technically an independent. Maybe it makes since he hasn`t endorsed yet.
Before today, there was one other senator who either is a Democrat or caucuses with the Democratic Party who did not make an endorsement in the presidential race. That was Senator Jeff Merkley, the iconoclastic liberal senator from the great state of Oregon.
Before today, these were the only senators who were Democrats who haven`t endorsed between Sanders and Clinton.
And before today, of all the rest of them, every single other one of the 40 Democratic senators who have made an endorsement in the primary that 40 senators have endorsed. Before today, every single Democratic senator who had made an endorsement had endorsed Hillary Clinton. Before today, she was 40 for 40 among Senate Democratic endorsements.
But today, that iconic liberal Oregon senator, Jeff Merkley, today, he decided to jump in and declare his allegiance and he decided that he would endorse Bernie Sanders. This is the first U.S. Senate endorsement for Bernie Sanders from a United States senator not named Bernie Sanders.
Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks for being here to talk about this. I really appreciate your time.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Oh, you bet, Rachel. Great to be with you.
MADDOW: So, I noted in the op-ed that you wrote for "The New York Times" and in a letter that you sent out about this endorsement, you didn`t make the case against Hillary Clinton. You essentially made the case for Bernie Sanders and said kind things about Secretary Clinton and I also note that it took you a long time to make the endorsement compared to a lot of your colleagues.
Should I read into that that this was a hard call for you?
MERKLEY: Well, we are completely blessed on the Democratic side to have two individuals of such experience, good minds, good hearts, good records, and so, we can really be proud of this conversation, this dialogue about where your country needs to go. Taking all that into account, what I found is on the biggest issues facing America, it`s Bernie Sanders who I felt has been the clearest, the most fierce and the most bold in laying out the vision for where we need go to go.
And that`s in key areas such as tackling global warming, taking on campaign finances and creating living wage jobs across America. Those three things are top concerns and I feel like Bernie is laid out a vision that will really take us to the right place.
MADDOW: Oregon hasn`t voted yet in terms of Democratic primaries. Your constituents, I don`t know exactly what your constituents are going to do. Do you feel like the timing was driven for you trying to influence how your state is going to vote?
MERKLEY: Yes, absolutely. Vote by mail in Oregon, the ballots go out on April 28. So, we`re roughly two weeks, a little more than two weeks out before people start voting. They`ll have the voter ballots for two and a half weeks. They`ll be sitting at their kitchen table. They`ll be talking with their children. They`ll be talking with their neighbors and they`ll be filling them out.
And so, this is the moment when Oregon really starts paying attention and this shows the moment to make the endorsement.
MADDOW: When I described you as an iconoclastic liberal, I meant that in the nicest possibly way.
MERKLEY: I hope so. I hope so.
MADDOW: Yes. Iconoclastic and kind of a lot of different ways, at a lot of different levels.
But I guess because of that, because I think you have shown you`re willing to go your own way and come up with your own policy positions and cast the political winds wherever they are, I wonder why it is you think you are alone on this. Why have none of your Senate colleagues endorsed Bernie Sanders alongside you?
MERKLEY: Well, one of the factors was many of my colleagues endorsed very early on, at which point, folks didn`t think that Bernie Sanders would be able to wage a viable campaign, that he`d be able to raise money, that he would be move crowds. And, of course, as time has passed, it`s proved he can raise the money certainly and he can certainly move crowds and build a grassroots movement. He`s done it in a different way that anyone`s ever seen.
Maybe it`s a little bit fortunate that I wanted to wait until closer to the Oregon election that I could see that he really had a competitive ability. Now, he has an upward hill climb to make in this campaign and it`s really important that when the dust clears, not so many weeks from now, that the person who wins and the person who loses come together, reach out to each other, lock arms and create a united front going into November.
But I want people to pay attention to what Bernie has done. When it comes to global warming, he was there to say early on that the Keystone Pipeline is wrong. He was there early to say drilling in the Arctic is wrong.
He was there early on to say that if we`re going to tackle global warming, we have to leave 80 percent of the fossil fuels in the world in the ground, to keep on the ground movement. He was there willing to say that and willing to say that the fossil fuels you and I own as citizens have to be left in the ground. We should quit doing leases what you and I and the rest of our citizens own there`s a contract to let people take coal and oil and gas out of the ground three, four, five decades into the future. We cannot be doing that.
So, he`s been fierce. He`s been clear on this huge issue affecting our planet. It`s a moral issue and he`s been equally clear and fierce on the fact that when we have trade agreements with countries where people pay less than $1 an hour, our factors are going to move to those countries, and it doesn`t just hurt the folks who lose the jobs, it hurts all the rest of the workers because their leverage is slipped.
When they say, we want a fair share of the wealth we create, they`re told, well, too bad because if you press hard, we`ll move your jobs overseas like so many others.
And so, I appreciate that he understands that fact, that it has eviscerated the middle class for the last four decades. In four decades, the number is very close to 100 percent of the new income having gone to the top 10 percent in America. That means nine out of 10 Americans have been left out in the cold. And they don`t know what`s going wrong. They`re looking for answers, but certainly, this is one piece of the puzzle and Bernie has been clear about taking it on.
MADDOW: Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, your timing on this and your willingness to stand alone have made a lot of people want to talk to you today. I really appreciate you`re making time to talk with us, sir.
MERKLEY: You`re so welcome. Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Senator.
So, Bernie Sanders now has one sitting U.S. senator that has endorsed him. I should reiterate that Secretary Clinton has 40 senators who have endorsed her, and one of them joins us next from a state that`s shaping up to be a surprisingly close race this year.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, there was one time on this show where we confused Indiana and Illinois. That was good.
There was another time we called the Atlantic Ocean the Indian Ocean.
But, tonight, I think we did just -- I think this is maybe our best visual screw up ever not involving some iteration of the word India. Because apparently when I was just talking about Senator Angus King of Maine who is this person, apparently, we instead just showed a picture of bottom left there, see Senator King, not the same guy.
That`s Congressman Peter King of New York, who not only is not Senator Angus King. He`s not a senator, he`s not an independent. He`s not from Maine and he`s not a person who caucuses with the Democrats and he`s just nothing -- I mean, white man. That`s the only way I can get there visually, that`s it.
I regret the error sincerely. Senator King, Congressman King, I sincerely regret the error. I will also admit to finding it a little bit hilarious. I`m sorry. Very sorry.
MADDOW: There`s so much polling of this year`s presidential race that can be shocking to discover -- something, anything that hasn`t been polled. But even though the presidential primary in the great state of Connecticut is less than two weeks away, before yesterday, the last time anybody asked that state about their presidential preferences was before Thanksgiving.
And in that long time since, something that`s now sort of familiar has happened in the Democratic race. Something that Senator Jeff Merkley was just eluding to.
When the Emerson College poll was taken in Connecticut five months ago, Hillary Clinton at the time had a really big lead, 19 points over Bernie Sanders. That was November. But that same poll a couple of days ago now finds that it`s much closer. Senator Sanders closing the gap to almost within the margin of error. The margin error in this poll is 5.2 percent. Hillary Clinton leading in that poll by 6 percent.
Connecticut`s two U.S. senators are both Democrats. They both endorsed Hillary Clinton for president all the way back in June when she was leading national polls by as much as 60 points. A lot has changed in the Democratic race since then.
We just heard from Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon who today made big news by becoming the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse Bernie Sanders. So, Jeff Merkley is the first one now for Sanders.
Meanwhile, 40 Democratic senators have endorsed Hillary Clinton including our next guest, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
Senator, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thank you so much for being here.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, no problem.
I imagine you might have been able to hear my conversation there with Jeff Merkley. One of the things notable about his news-making endorsement today is that he is very positive about the Democratic field. He told us that Democrats are spoiled for choice. They`re both two great candidates.
Do you feel that same way about this race?
MURPHY: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree. I mean, Jeff`s spot on. You know, I`m a Hillary Clinton supporter but I count Bernie as a good friend. I think he`s a great progressive, a great senator and I`d be proud if he was our president.
But for many of us that are supporting Hillary Clinton, we`re doing it for our own reasons, for me. You know, I really don`t buy the idea there`s a gulf between the valleys of the two candidates. I think both of them are going to bring to the White House a concern for restoring the balance between those who have and those who have not. They`re going to both care about trying to attack global warming.
To me, the issue is that Hillary Clinton has displayed a seriousness about putting proposals on the table that are detailed, that are real, are meaningful, and she`s got a history of being able to make change happen.
You know, of course, in Connecticut, it`s a very personal decision for a lot of us. The extent that there`s one issue that really matters to me in a psychological way, it`s the issue of gun violence and I want a president who on day one fighting against the gun lobby. I`m pretty convinced there`s only one candidate in the race right now who I`m sure is going to make the issue a top priority.
But, listen, I think Jeff is right. We`re lucky to have two great candidates and I will say this, I think Bernie`s entrance into the race has been a good thing for the Democratic Party, a good thing for the country and ultimately, a good thing for Hillary Clinton. It will make her a stronger general election candidate.
MADDOW: You mentioned the issue of guns. Obviously, that`s been a point of real contention between the two Democratic candidates this year. You have been outspoken in criticizing Senator Sanders record and some of his more resent comments during the campaign on guns. We heard Senator Merkley a moment ago single out climate change and income inequality as two of the things that really motivated him in terms of making this endorsement for Senator Sanders.
One of the reasons I want today talk to you tonight, sir, is you`ve been so forward about trying to define a progressive foreign policy and a progressive national security agenda on the Democratic side. Is that also key to your endorsement decision here?
MURPHY: So, it is. I mentioned the issue of gun violence is personal to me. But, you know, I certainly am trying to paint a path forward in which the Democratic Party can be internationalist, that we can see the United States as a force for good in the world without being overly interventionalist. And I`m often this skunk in the garden party within the establishment in both the Democratic Party and Republican Party in Washington because of the skepticism about some of the plans we make for using military weight to create political change in the Middle East.
You know, Hillary Clinton is the inventor of the concept of smart power, of economic diplomacy. And I value the fact that I think as president, she`s going to leverage the ways in which the United States can be a force for good through nonmilitary means.
I think Bernie gets that as well. I just know in her work as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was pioneering in some of these ideas how you use softer power rather than harder power to influence world events.
MADDOW: Do you think you have a bead on how your state is going to vote? The Connecticut primary is not far off. There has not been much polling. But we have seen the polling tighten in Connecticut like it has in so many states over the course of this race.
And if Senator Sanders ends up pulling out a win in Connecticut, is that going to be awkward for you and your constituents?
MURPHY: So, I think Hillary is going to win in Connecticut, in part because I do think this issue of distinction on the passion with which each candidate is going to go in the Oval Office on the issue of guns is going to matter. But, you know, Connecticut has been a contrarian state when it comes to primaries, going all the way back to 1992 when Jerry Brown pulled a win out of the hat in Connecticut over Senator Clinton`s husband.
So, I don`t think anybody should be surprised that the race is close, and I think people shouldn`t be surprised that it`s narrowed. That`s what tends to happen in many of these races. I`m certainly going to be expecting that she`ll pull out a win, but I don`t think it will be a landslide.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, I really appreciate you being here, sir. I know that internecine Democratic conflict is most people`s non-favorite point of discussion, especially on TV, but you and Senator Merkley are both -- you go your own way. You`re both such principled progressives. I really appreciated the chance to have you here tonight. Thank you.
MURPHY: Thanks a lot.
All right. So, we`ve got news tonight on one of the stranger and more intriguing stories from this election cycle, a police department is the one that`s being called on to settle this matter. That tells you how weird it is as a political story, but that story is ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. This is something to keep an eye on tonight. I want to tell you at the outset that NBC News has not confirmed this reporting. But this is out there tonight and you should keep a watch out for this.
You may remember last month, Donald Trump`s campaign manager, a man named Corey Lewandowski was charged with a misdemeanor count of simple battery following some sort of run-in with a reporter at a Trump event in Jupiter, Florida. Mr. Trump`s campaign manager vehemently denied he ever did anything to the reporter. All along, even after the charge was laid by the local police department, Mr. Trump has stood by his campaign manager in this dispute.
Well, now, tonight, politico.com is reporting that a Florida prosecutor has decided to not prosecute Corey Lewandowski for battery in this case. Politico.com is reporting that the prosecutor is going to make an announcement about it tomorrow, but they think they have advanced word.
Again, NBC News has not independently verified any of this reporting, but keep an eye out for the news out tomorrow from Florida. "Politico" may have a scoop tonight, but we`ll know for sure when we hear from that prosecutor tomorrow.
MADDOW: We have yet more news tonight, this time on a story we`ve been following more closely than sometimes feels comfortable. It`s about the D.C. madam case from about a decade ago in the fight by one lawyer involved in that case to release what he says are previously unseen phone records from the D.C. madam escort service at the center of that scandal.
Now, the lawyer who was involved in that case who has these records. He`s a man named Montgomery Blair Sibley. He`s got a very colorful controversial record as a lawyer. He says these undisclosed records from the escort service are newly newsworthy and they should be released to the public because he says they specifically are relevant to the 2016 presidential race and no, we don`t know what he means by that.
But this week, Mr. Sibley made public some court documents from that case, which contained the names of 174 organizations, companies, government agencies, organizations of other kinds, that allegedly dialed the escort service for one reason or another while it was in business.
Now, what he wants to release, despite a federal court gag order that prohibits him from doing so, is not a list of companies and organizations that called the service, he wants to release a list of names of individual people who called the escort service.
Mr. Sibley has taken the request to be released from the gag order to a number of federal courts in recent weeks, including most recently the United States Supreme Court. As we reported here on the show, Chief Justice John Roberts denied his first request for the court to hear his motion on this issue.
After getting rejected by one justice, though, you do get one more bite at the apple and as we reported last week, Mr. Sibley decided that the justice to whom he would resubmit his request after the chief told him no, his second choose justice would be Justice Clarence Thomas.
And that brings us to today`s news. The justice didn`t say no. He didn`t say no in the same way that Chief Justice Roberts did. Justice Thomas decided to distribute the application for conference, which means that on April 29th, the eight Supreme Court justices will gather for their next discussion of cases and at that meeting, they could potentially review Mr. Sibley application -- his application that he wants to be released from the gag order in the D.C. madam case so he can release to the public these unseen phone records of people doing business with the escort agency. And again, he says those records will have a direct bearing on the 2016 presidential election. We don`t know if it`s true, but that`s what he says.
Now, even if the Supreme Court doesn`t take up his request, which honestly it seems about 99 percent likely they will not take it up, it still may be a matter of time before Mr. Sibley releases these records on his own, despite the gag order that still applies to him, he has still threatened to release the records publicly if the court turns him down.
So far though, tonight`s news is that the court isn`t actually turning him down. Not yet. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again for tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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